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Free UWL surge testing site offers COVID-19 results in minutes

Kaitlyn Riley

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Weeks ahead of potential holiday travel, a new surge testing site could help the La Crosse area in its fight against COVID-19.

Earlier this week, UW-System President Tommy Thompson announced UW-System campuses in partnership with the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services would serve as the first “surge testing” sites for new rapid-results COVId-19 tests.

Testing at the free site opened at UW-La Crosse’s Cartwright Center Thursday for staff, faculty, off-campus students, and the broader community. UW-La Crosse Chancellor Joe Gow said the campus is already regularly testing students who live in the residence halls, and this will add to their efforts to help fight community spread.

“On campus, we feel very fortunate to be getting relatively low numbers of positive tests, and we’re able to then get those students into quarantine,” Gow said. “We feel that we have a manageable situation. In the community things, are different. That’s why this testing is so important. It is important that it’s available for community members and people who aren’t on our campus so that we can address the spread of the virus in the greater La Crosse area.”

On Thursday, six positive tests were reported on campus, whereas La Crosse County’s total was 125.

The testing site can offer up to 500 free antigen tests per day over the next six weeks. Gow said test results are available in about 15 minutes, and if there is a positive test, they can follow up with a free PCR test.

As students and community members may be making Thanksgiving plans, Gow said he hoped they will get tested before deciding to travel.

“We’d like them to come in and get a test to make sure they are not taking the virus from here to their family, and then also when they get back to the area that they are not bringing it back with them,” Gow said. “The fundamentals remain. That means we have to wear masks. We have to distance, and we have to wash our hands.”

Although the tests are free, they are only available by appointment. Testing will take place on the third floor of Cartwright Center and will be overseen by staff from eTrueNorth.

Kaitlyn Riley’s passion for communications started on her family’s dairy farm in Gays Mills, Wis. Wanting to share agriculture’s story, she studied strategic communications and broadcast journalism at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. In college, she held officer positions with the Association of Women in Agriculture and Badger Dairy Club while volunteering as a news reporter for the college radio station. She also founded the university’s first agricultural radio talk show, AgChat. In her professional career, Kaitlyn has worked in radio, print and television news doing everything from covering local events to interviewing presidential candidates, and putting back on her barn boots to chat with farmers in the field. Today, Kaitlyn can be seen covering local stories that matter to you in the La Crosse area.

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